Northwestern State gets second crack at No. 1 Gonzaga

NCAA Basketball

Gonzaga coach Mark Few feels his top-ranked team badly needs to play more games after five contests were wiped out due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

So sticking with the unconventional times during the pandemic, a solution was found: play back-to-back home games against Northwestern State.

One night after beating the Demons 95-57, the Bulldogs (5-0) will oppose the Demons (1-8) in a rematch Tuesday at Spokane, Wash.

“It’s not always going to be 1 vs. 3,” Few said postgame Monday night, referencing his team’s win over then-No. 3 Iowa on Saturday. “We need a game tomorrow more than we need practice.”

Corey Kispert was fine with that notion after recording 27 points and seven rebounds in the Monday matchup.

“Every single game is a gift,” Kispert said.

Helping matters toward hastily adding the second game was that Northwestern State (1-8) is scheduled to play Wednesday night against Washington State in Pullman, about 75 miles south of Spokane.

Playing the Bulldogs twice while being in the Pacific Northwest is just fine with Demons coach Mike McConathy, even though his club committed 20 turnovers and shot 37.5 percent on Monday.

“They’re really, really good,” McConathy said after the drubbing. “It was a great opportunity to play against the No. 1 team in the nation, and we get to do it again tomorrow. We have to cut down on our turnovers and keep our guys up, keep encouraging them.”

Few said he was running out of options in terms of adding opponents. He admitted it was an unusual situation.

“It’s going to be a total mental challenge,” Few said. “There is nothing like game experience. You can’t simulate that in practice.”

Kispert surely won’t mind seeing the Demons again after making 10 of 13 field-goal attempts while falling one point shy of his career high. The senior made three 3-pointers while scoring 11 points in the first 6:33 of the contest to set the tone.

“My first couple of shots went down and I was able to be dialed in the rest of the game,” said Kispert, who is averaging a team-best 21.4 points per game. “Everything slows down, just being in the zone.”

The 6-foot-7 Kispert has three 20-point outings this season. He scored 23 against Kansas on Nov. 26 and 25 versus Auburn one night later.

Gonzaga’s Anton Watson enjoyed a solid all-around game on Monday with 15 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocked shots.

Tuesday’s contest is the fourth of a road excursion in which Northwestern State plays five games in six nights.

The Demons have dropped the first three games by an average of 30.7 points. They lost each of the first two contests by 27 points — to Tulsa and Missouri State — before absorbing the 38-point setback against the Zags.

The Demons trailed by just five points shortly before the midway point of the first half and were down 43-30 at halftime. However, the Bulldogs turned up their play several notches in the second half to turn the game into a blowout.

“We’re not shooting the ball very well,” McConathy said. “That’s something I think will come when we get in (the Southland Conference). We’ve got to come back in here and compete and do a better job of working the clock.”

Carvell Teasett scored 16 points in 20 minutes off the bench in Monday’s loss and is averaging 16 points over the past four games to raise his season mark to 8.9.

Jairus Roberson, who scored 12 points on four 3-pointers Monday, leads Northwestern State with a 10.9 scoring average and with 24 treys.

–Field Level Media

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